The Master of Fine Arts offers quite a unique postgraduate study experience.
As a practice-based programme, the MFA is unlike a taught or research Masters. Instead it combines elements of both, with a unique creative component.
Ultimately, you will proceed to undertake a substantial creative piece or performance.
How long is an MFA?
The length of a Master of Fine Arts degree varies. Programmes in the UK may run for one year, but many require up to two years of full-time study.
A longer UK MFA may sometimes include a year of MA study (up to, but not including, the MA dissertation). Or it may be a dedicated programme of practical work.
Programmes in the USA are likely to be one and a half to two years long.
How is an MFA organised?
MFA programmes are commonly divided into modules, delivered through lectures or seminars. This is particularly likely if your degree overlaps with a related MA programme.
These units will give you a grounding in your discipline, help you pick up key skills and provide an opportunity to discuss work with other students.
Like a research student, you’ll also spend a lot of time on supervised independent work. This will allow you to develop your skills through practice.
Your programme will normally conclude with a final creative project, drawing on the skills and expertise your MFA has developed.
This takes the place of the dissertation or thesis at the end of other Masters degrees. It will be an advanced piece of work, delivered to a professional standard.
How are MFA degrees assessed?
As you’d expect, the Master of Fine Arts is mainly assessed through practical work. Depending on your subject, this will mean putting together performances, presentations or portfolios.
These will often be accompanied by written pieces. Here you will reflect on your practice and assess its success.
If your MFA contains modules from a related MA programme you will also need to complete more conventional coursework essays for these.
Your final project will be assessed through a major performance, presentation or portfolio submission. You may also be orally examined on the planning, execution and success of this work.
How many credits is an MFA worth?
MFA programmes are recognised as Masters-level qualifications, but do not always have a strict credit value.
The greater length and focus on practical work makes it hard to fit a Master of Fine Arts to the credit systems used for taught Masters degrees such as the MA.
If your Master of Fine Arts does include organised modules, these may be given a credit weighting. If so the total value for your degree will be at least 180 UK credits (or their equivalent).